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Tokyo ESP Vol. #01 Manga Review

7 min read

Tokyo ESP Volume 1Miracles do happen, right? You just need to believe in them for good things to happen.

Creative Staff
Art/Story: Hajime Segawa
Translation/Adaptation: Kumar Sivasubramanian

What They Say:
There’s a New Heroine in Town.

Rinka Urushiba’s world is turned upside down when she wakes up one day – after falling through the floor.

Encouraged by another ESPer who believes that Rinka’s destiny is to be come a hero of justice, she soon learns to use her powers for good. And not a moment too soon, as those with less-than-admirable ambitions descend on Tokyo with their own sets of superpowers. As the mysteriously glowing fish flitting through the city skies gift powers seemingly at random, foes become friends and alliances are made and broken.

And what about that flying penguin?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Rinka Urushiba was just an ordinary high school student until she woke up and found herself falling through the floor in just her underwear. What a way to start the day – she ends up startling the old man downstairs and now she finds some bizarre guy in her apartment asking her if she remembers what happen yesterday. As if things couldn’t get any worse, but now she can barely use her phone to call her dad without it phasing through her hand, and now this boy is asking about her day? How could not remember it?

Every day is like the last: her classmates make fun because her family is so poor she has ride her bike to school, her lunches are barely edible, and now she’s seeing a flying penguin? If she could catch it, they would be set for life! However, as she approaches Tokyo Skytree, that weird kid suddenly appears and starts talking about miracles? As Rinka looks around, she sees that bird is chasing floating, glowing fish, which is strange enough, but when one passes through her body, everything grows dark and she passes out. The next thing she knows this weirdo is standing over her and babbling on about miracles again – while she is in her underwear! Whatever happened to privacy? If it wasn’t for her monstrous strength, he would still be rambling instead of passed out on the floor.

After he recovers, Rinka makes the decision to go the hospital since she never heard of an illness which lets you fall through the floor. Puzzled by her choice, the stranger tells her to think of it in a positive light and instead call it a super power! After all, it seems that only people who saw those fish have these abilities, so it has to be a miracle! Thankfully before she has to crush his skull again to stop him from talking, her father returns her call and tells Rinka that he is on his way home; the only problem is that all of these cars and metal things are chasing him and he can’t stop them. Desperate to help, she races toward him, only to find a giant Katamari ball of twisted steel. After a frantic call, she discovers that her father is the cause of that menacing boulder of metal. With no apparent way to get him out of his prison, her helpful goofball suggests that she use her powers to phase through and rescue him. This plan might just be crazy enough to work!

With the plan set, they climb to a nearby building, ready to jump; however, with the evidence they gathered from Rinka’s own experiments with her abilities, it soon becomes clear that the user must be conscious to use their powers. So, the only way they can be turned off, aside from the bearer willing them to be canceled, is that they must knock out her father? That should be no problem with her extensive close quarter combat training drilled into her by her dad, but how can they get out? Her friend states that he will take of that; thus, with a quick phase, an equally quick and vicious kick to the head and a mysterious blink whereby they find themselves outside of the sphere, the crisis is soundly resolved. But, how did they get out? Her friend finally explains that he too has super powers – the ability to teleport, but he is still trying to understand how to use it, and that his name is Kyotaro Azuma.

Once they drag her father home and he recovers, Azuma finally explains that those glowing fish seem to grant beings who they pass through special powers, or as he calls them, extrasensory powers or ESP. However, these phantoms are not picky of who they effect and not everyone who gets will use their super powers for good. Therefore, he has taken it upon himself to fight those who would use their gifts for evil since it is obvious that ordinary police can never stop them. Thus with his mindset, Azuma has decided that he will stop anyone who commits crimes or harms normal people, but he needs help. Of course, he volunteers the only other person he knows with powers – Rinka! What has she gotten herself into and why did she have to meet this oddball … but things are only going to get worse.

In Summary:
Tokyo ESP is a hilarious mixture of comedy, combat, outrageous techniques and fighting for justice against those who would use their powers for evil. This makes the manga feel like a combination of a fighting video game or anime plus the morality gleaned from an American Golden Age comic – which dates from the late thirties to the early fifties. While the story and premise of the manga are solid, the underlying theme of the story strikes a deeply rooted concept which is buried in the human psyche: If you have the ability to do something when you see a wrong being committed, will you do the right thing even if you know that the consequences could spell something dire in the future?

It is this dilemma which our protagonists have to face after they receive their powers. Due to his background, Azuma has no problem with the decision, but Rinka has been convinced due to her disbelief in her own abilities. Even though her father has instilled a strong sense of right and wrong in her, she is still hesitant to join him as Heralds of Justice all due to that question of repercussions. She is always thinking of the future, of how she would not be able to work if they are branded as misfits. Of the two, she is the more rational, while Azuma is the more practical. But, as the manga continues, Rinka begins to understand that everything has aftereffect, and it is the virtuous person who does not hesitate to do the right thing.

While the story is very moving, Vertical Comics made a bad choice when printing the book which detracts from not being able to fully enjoy it: the fonts. Although a universal type has been unofficially used in other projects, Comic Sans (or a derivation of it), for some reason, the publisher chose to use not only this typeface but several others to reflect different moods and atmospheres on the characters. While this might sound like a good idea in theory, once it is in practice, the variations in the text distracts the reader from enjoying the true masterpiece of the manga – the artwork. To see a text type in one panel, a different on in the next and a variation of another on the next page, it gets to the point of being ridiculous. Even if they chose to use a smaller font to denote a whisper or embolden it to make some impact, you don’t need to use it on every other page. Why not stick with one type style instead of using a multitude of confusing texts? This technique is not only an eyesore but also seems to punish the reader in trying to translate a foreign language by flipping around a set standard.

The first volume of Tokyo ESP is a wonderful escape into the craziness of Rinka and Azuma life which covers the events of the first four episodes of the anime. Plus it is a great offer with double the pages in a regular manga for only 1.5 times the price. But, while it is a great read of a familiar subject, the bouncing text confuses us just enough to nauseate what should have been a fulfilling trip into their world. While you do get used to the distractions, it just isn’t worth the effort to understand the atmosphere they tried to build with this choice. Hopefully, the next issue will be more uniform and not such a chore to read.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: C

Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Vertical Comics
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
MSRP: $15.95